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You’re not alone. According to WordPress.com, the website platform’s users produce about 64.3 million new blog posts each month. Blog popularity continues to grow, even ten years after everyone learned what a blog was.
Blogging can provide huge business opportunities, both for amateur at-home writers, and established businesses. It can also serve as an outlet to share your most inner thoughts (and fears), or your expertise on a particular topic.
Starting a blog isn’t hard. Figuring out how to start a successful blog, that’s the challenge. In this article, we’ll provide you with the tips you need to start off on the right foot. We’ve even put them in order for you, like a step-by-step guide.
Pick A Niche That You’re Passionate About
People have different motivations for blogging. Some want to achieve fame or notoriety and gain thousands of followers. Some want to make money while blogging from home, while others work for or own a small business and want to drive more traffic to the company website.
Whatever your motivations for blogging, if you want to build a successful blog, you need to pick a niche that you’re passionate about. Sure, it helps to be well-informed, or even an expert, about your blog topic, but plenty of successful (and profitable) bloggers are just winging it. But they're passionate wingers.
Starting a successful blog requires constantly learning about the topic you’re presenting to your readers. You’ll need to read articles and books about your niche; watch videos about the latest trends related to the topic, and find unique ways to convey information about the topic to your audience. Without a passion for your niche, these tasks become tedious work, and your writing will be less interesting.
The goal of your blog content should be to make it addictive to your readers; to always leave them wanting more. To do that, you need to put your own unique twist on the topic, and that's hard to do if you aren’t passionate about it.
Determine The Viability Of Your Niche
Sometimes, though, being passionate isn’t enough.
One of the most important tips for successful blogging that you’ll get is this: research your niche before you start. If the niche you selected has the potential to be successful, a quick Google search should provide dozens of blogs just like the one you want to start.
According to Matt Woodward from the No Nonsense SEO and Affiliate Marketing blog, a good rule of thumb for determining if you’ve picked a good niche is to find five blogs in that niche that have 10,000 followers. If you can’t find five blogs that meet that requirement, you may want to re-think your niche.
A common mistake that many people make when they discover that their niche has a lot of competition is to say, “Oh, well, this topic has been covered already; there isn't anything new that I can bring to the table.”
Banish those thoughts from your mind.
Competition is a good thing. It is what drives people to work harder and create new solutions to problems (hello, auto makers!). Competition is what will force you to create completely new things to bring to the table. Think of competition as your friend and motivator.
The blogging community is full of groups that network with and help one another. They use one another to bounce ideas off of and to help promote their own blogs. You might be surprised to find that you make friends with your “competition”.
Do The Technical Stuff
- Buying a memorable, niche-relevant domain name
- Finding and setting up a host for your domain
- Selecting a blog platform
- Sketching your blog design
- Setting up the blog homepage and navigation
- Creating a newsletter sign-up and pop-up
If you need guidance to do these steps, check out this video from Joshua Fields Millburn, one of the creators of TheMinimalist.com. He goes through some of the basic steps of how to set up a successful blog; he even whips out his credit card to purchase hosting!
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when you’re setting up your blog platform and design. This advice is based on tips that popular bloggers share for how to start a successful blog:
Select a full-featured platform. There are lots of platforms that you can choose from, and most are user-friendly (so you don’t need to know how to code or be a design expert.) Some are more feature-rich than others, though. Look for a platform with the best WordPress plugins for SEO, email newsletter sign-up options, easy image uploading, content tags, and the ability to schedule your posts in advance.
Sketch it out first. People often underestimate the importance of thinking through their site design before they start actually tinkering with all the bells and whistles. A professional-looking, easy-to-read design is important, and you don’t want to waste time going back to rearrange pages and categories later.
Include an About page with your photo. Readers like to see whose words they’re reading. They also want to know what makes you an authority on the topic you’re writing about. An About page is a key way in which you can connect with new readers right off the bat. Check out this about me article for tips on what to include in your about me page.
Include a Start Here page. Similar to your About page, a Start Here page is an opportunity for you to highlight what your blog is about, as well as links to some of your most popular posts, downloadable PDFs, and e-courses. Put the Start Here page at the top of every page on your blog so that new visitors who enter your site through specific blog posts (not the home page) can find it easily.
Write In-Depth, Value-Added Content
We’re living in a world in which people want to get something in return for their time. Your readers have an expectation that you aren’t going to waste their precious minutes with a post that doesn't provide them with answers to a problem, access to a freebie, or at least something thought-provoking to start their day.
Writing an in-depth post should include (at a minimum):
- Researching the topic for that post thoroughly
- Providing examples and anecdotes that drive the point home
- Including photos, graphics, and videos that can help to explain your points visually
If you write a provocative post title that draws readers in, you need to deliver on the promise with fully fleshed-out content. If you don’t, you could alienate and lose new readers, and followers won’t stick around for long.
When trying to choose topics and types of posts to write, you should review and reflect upon the questions that people ask you in your everyday life, as well as the comments, questions, and concerns that your readers post on your site. This is how you determine what your readers will find valuable.
Remember that your competition is already out there publishing great content that you can use for inspiration. Putting your own unique spin on a topic covered in a competing blog is a common practice in the world of blogging.
Blogging takes time. Not just time to build a long list of posts and followers, but also time to make each post worthwhile to the majority of your readers.
Develop A Signature Writing Style
Reading other blogs for inspiration is one thing, but when it comes to writing your actual posts, you need your own writing style. Developing a writing style that is distinctly your own accomplishes two important things:
- It sets you apart from your competition
- It lets your readers feel like they know you personally
Setting yourself apart. One of the reasons that people read blogs is that they crave variety. Variety of opinion, information, and expression. If you want to turn new visitors to your blog into loyal followers, you need to show them (through your writing) how you are different than the other bloggers out there.
Different doesn’t have to mean better. Remember that your goal is to bring your own unique “flavor” to your niche. Focus on your uniqueness, not on out-doing the competition.
Showing your personal self. Readers can tell when a blog post is written just for SEO purposes or to capitalize on recent events. If you’ve been writing from your personal knowledge and expertise, and providing anecdotes in your posts, your readers will have a sense of who you are, and will catch on when you’re not being authentic.
“Authenticity” is a major buzz word in the world of blogging. This blog explains what you should be aiming for when you write a post: “When a writer can compose an idea in a specific way that demonstrates a distinct personality and style then that writer is using authenticity.”
Most articles about developing your writing style have one tip in common: to use the words that come naturally to you. This is how the “real you” will shine through your blog posts, and how your readers will know that you’re a genuine, authentic person.
Check out this clever post (we love the incorporated infographic) about writing styles for a blog.
Utilize Different Post Types
Remember how we said that people crave variety?
Successful bloggers know that writing the same type of post over and over can result in lost readership and fewer subscribers.
Keep readers interested by writing different types of blog posts. Each post should still maintain your signature writing style, but present tips and information in a different style than the post before it.
Common post types that readers are used to seeing include:
- Product reviews
- Interviews with thought leaders
- How-to’s and tutorials
Do some research on what types of posts are successful in your niche. Scan other blogs, or use a website like Buzzsumo.com to get statistics on shares and likes of real blog posts that are trending. Mix it up on your own blog and analyze the results of each post type so you can give your readers more of what they like.
Publish Your Posts On A Schedule
Popular bloggers will tell you that their best-performing blog posts are the ones that they post on a schedule that their readers expect. Yes, it's important to publish a lot of content, but it's just as important to have your readers anticipate your next post.
Let's say you have decided to do a series of How-To posts. Publishing these posts every few weeks, without any rhyme or reason, means followers won't come to expect and appreciate the posts the way they would if you published a new How-To post every Thursday morning.
Think about the blogs you follow religiously; the ones you look forward to reading, from bloggers you respect. Visit their sites and look at the dates and times of their most recent posts. Not all bloggers publish their posts on a strict schedule, but many do feature their most popular post types on a specific day. Follow their lead; they obviously know what they’re doing, since they’ve got you on the hook!
If you’re worried that publishing on a schedule will put pressure on you sometimes, you’re right. It will. It's quite possible (and likely) that'll you'll occasionally find yourself polishing the language of a post into the wee hours of the morning, just to make your post deadline.
On the flip-side, following a schedule can turn your blog-related activities into a well-oiled machine. The deadlines will keep you accountable. The social media promotion will be predictable. When you're feeling really creative, you can dash off a few posts at a time, and schedule them to publish in advance. Blogging should be fun, and maintaining a blogging schedule can help keep it that way.
Engage With Readers, But Don’t Babysit The Comments Section
To ensure that your blog posts are hitting the right nerve with your readers, you need to engage with them. Sure, you could sit back and silently read the comments or count the Likes and Shares, but actively engaging with readers will give you insight into their thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, likes, and dislikes. If you’re lucky, followers will start engaging with one another.
Responding to reader comments on a post, or via social media, provides value beyond the content that you’re publishing. Readers feel listened to, and heard. They feel flattered that you took the time to respond to them, and they like you more for it. You can take these exchanges turn them into new post ideas.
Don't just expect readers to start commenting, though. Take the lead and start the discussion. Encourage them to share their thoughts about a post, or pose a question at the end of the post. Make it clear that you want to hear from them and take the post to another level of exploration.
To ensure that the discussion can happen freely, make sure that you aren't making it difficult or time consuming to comment. If you require readers to register on your site in order to post a question or comment, you’ll stop them from quickly writing what comes to mind.
Even worse is when you require approval before a reader post can go live. Bloggers tend to approve comments in batches, instead of as they come in (which is time consuming and distracting), so followers can’t read and respond to comments as they come in. By the time you approve the content, they will have moved onto another topic.
While it might seem safer to moderate discussion and comments on your site (let’s face it, some people can be downright mean), doing so slows the natural flow of conversation that readers are looking to have. This is a great article about why you shouldn't limit customer interaction on your blog.
Turn off the restrictions on comments and keep an eye on the discussion. If you have to, enlist the help of a friend or family member to be your eyes and ears on the comments section. Block the bad eggs, and delete any harassing or truly offensive content.
Promotion Is Essential For Starting A Successful Blog
Think about the pages and pages of Google search results that you get when you are looking for information online. Even if you select a niche that is wildly popular, you can't expect your target audience to stumble upon your blog and suddenly become an avid follower.
Over the last few years, bloggers have taken promotion and cross-platform exposure to new levels. Today, some of the most common methods for promoting a blog are:
- Social media networking
- Creating YouTube channels
- Podcasting & guest podcast interviews
- E-newsletter / mailing lists
- Guest blogging
- E-courses & e-books
- Connecting to blog feeds
Some of these methods are more involved and best tackled after you have several months or a year of blogging under your belt (if you’re really ambitious, don’t let us stop you!) Some cost a lot of money, and others require only an investment of time. Each comes with its own pros and cons, which you’ll have to weight for yourself.
The point is, you’ve got to get your brand out there for people to find.
Not to sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating: check out how your competition is promoting itself. Subscribe to their newsletters and social media feeds. Find inspiration in their promotion, or reach out and ask them how they do it. There are tried and true methods for promoting blogs; use them.
Monetizing For Profit
Making money from a blog used to be limited to affiliate marketing links and banner ad sales.
My, how things have changed.
These days, successful blogs incorporate a variety of methods and products with which they can make money. Readers are often willing to pay for:
- PDFs with expert tips and tricks
- E-books written by bloggers
- Online courses developed by bloggers
- Access to special communities for blog readers
- Podcast episodes
Each of the above methods to monetize a blog has its own learning curve. Do your research and understand the nuances of each, then implement one at a time. Be sure to analyze the results of each on a regular basis, and adjust as necessary to get the most money for your effort.
Truth be told, a well-respected blogger with a massive following can sell just about anything to their readers because their readers trust them. It’s important to maintain your brand and value-add when promoting your blog; don’t sell out to just any advertiser or affiliate to make a buck.
Final Tip: Just Do It
Blogging, or starting a new business, is a lot like dieting. You can read articles and Google tips all day long, but in the long run, you just have to do it. You have to choose the healthy food and get up off the couch and move. You have to buy the domain and start writing.
Still want more advice? Watch this video to get first-hand tips from a top fashion and beauty blogger. She shares the things she wishes she knew before she started blogging.
It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon and learn how to make a successful blog. Use the tips in this article as a starting point to get you in the game. Tap into your passion and get going.